Three Missouri Main Street programs join national pilot program

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Three Missouri Main Street programs have been selected as part of 30 communities nationwide, including Puerto Rico, to participate in Main Street America’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystems in Rural Communities Pilot Program. This initiative is supported by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, in partnership with Forward Cities. The program’s goal is to engage, activate, and empower entrepreneurial talent in rural communities, ensuring local downtown districts reflect the diversity of their inhabitants. Participants will identify obstacles preventing entrepreneurs from starting or growing local businesses and develop action plans to overcome these challenges.

In addition to joining a cohort of national thought leaders and partners, communities will receive a $5,000 seed grant and $1,500 toward professional development certification with the International Economic Development Council (IEDC). There is also the potential for additional funding as the program grows.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for our programs! We are thrilled for these communities and eagerly anticipate the program’s impact across Missouri. With a variety of backgrounds, sizes, and locations, each community is poised to achieve significant successes,” stated Gayla Roten, Missouri Main Street Connection, State Director.

Main Street America (MSA) will collaborate closely with the leaders of the Main Street program in each selected community. This partnership aims to understand the current state of small business – the support, resources, and opportunities available to both aspiring and existing local entrepreneurs. MSA members will visit each community personally and provide both in-person and virtual support, assisting selected communities in implementing ecosystem-building practices for rural entrepreneurs. Additionally, a ‘train-the-trainer’ process will be provided for Missouri Main Street Connection to extend this approach to other Main Street programs within Missouri.

“Holistic, place-based entrepreneurial ecosystems offer a promising path forward for rural communities needing new and sustained local businesses,” commented Mat Wagner, Ph.D., MSA’s Chief Program Officer. “While much of the current work on entrepreneurial ecosystem development is focused on larger cities, there’s a significant need to extend these services to rural areas. Main Street America is uniquely positioned to meet this need in collaboration with its coordinating programs.”

Over the coming months, these three Missouri Main Street programs will engage in gathering feedback from local entrepreneurs and small business owners through an anonymous survey. The insights from this survey will be instrumental in shaping the support and expansion of local entrepreneurial efforts in their communities.

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